The Art of the Good Cigar

A Matter of Taste

Foodporn: Dinner at Deluxe

Posted by herfergrrl on July 6, 2009

Life is good.   I was the blessed recipient of a bumper crop of fine ripe yuzu fruit, a type of intensely fragrant Japanese citrus, and some lovely Fuyu persimmons, so I figured it would be worthwhile to see what Keith Rhodes over at Deluxe in Wilmington could do with them.  Dinner was very, very good.

We started with a round of yuzu martinis with fresh sugarcane brought in from St. Martin.  Delicious and fragrant.  The first course was seared  foie gras with persimmon gastrique on a rich and comfortable bed of savory duck confit hash, piled on a single crisp potato galette over baby mizuna greens.  The Conundrum 2005 wine served with this course was a bit thin, sharp and sour, but we assumed it was a temperature issue and put it aside to warm up to its more characteristically rich, lush and complex flavor.

Next came a Chinese-inspired stir fry dish of bay scallops with wilted pea shoots, bacon, thinly shaved persimmons and a sesame cilantro dressing, sprinkled with crisp wontons.  Tasty, and reasonably well integrated flavors, but a bit too much going on here to really savor any outstanding flavors.  I could taste a subtle hint of yuzu in the sauce as well.

The soup course was fantastic.  It was a rich, full shiitake and bonito  broth with tender, fat white udon noodles, perfectly cooked, enlivened with yuzu shavings, cilantro garnish, a hint of sesame oil and a generous helping of fresh shiitake.  Excellent, and a perfect match for the wine, which was otherwise continuing to misbehave even after it was brought up to temperature.  We did a palate check by scrubbing our mouths thoroughly with bread, butter and water, so it wasn’t the citrus on our palates that was doing weird stuff to the Conundrum.

For amuse-bouche in the middle of the dinner, we were served a single grilled crostini with a thick, generous slice of rich, creamy blue Cambozola cheese drizzled with honey and soaked with aromatic white truffle oil.  It was a party in my mouth.

Next we were served a trio of tempura: zucchini, shiitake and vidalia onion with a lovely yuzu-based ponzu dipping sauce.  I couldn’t eat the onion since I’m allergic to the stuff, but the rest was quite tasty.  I’ve had better and lighter tempura, but this wasn’t bad at all and the sauce was fantastic.

The next course was a venison tataki, thin slices of Axis venison on tender, starchy slices of lotus root that had been crisp fried on the outside and coated with a savory shiitake vegetable hash and topped with young pea sprouts.  The venison was absolutely top quality and perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the overall harmony and presentation of this dish was fantastic.  Killed the wine though, which it absolutely should not have done with a properly behaving Conundrum.

Two small slices of raw ahi tuna were drizzled with hot sesame oil to very slightly cook them, and topped with a romaine lettuce chiffonade and yuzu juice.  Tasty, if a a bit heavy on the oil.  The uncharacteristically sharp, sour, citrusy Conundrum did yeoman duty cleansing the palate during this course.

Last was a beautifully presented skewer of lamb with a fantastic yuzu pepper chutney, served with mixed exotic greens, fried onions and a sticky rice cake.  I passed on the rice and onions, but the lamb and chutney was amazing.  A dab of ginger creme fraiche was served on the side, but it wasn’t particularly good as it had a bit of a gritty texture.  Powdered ginger I imagine.  Nice concept, incorrect application. I didn’t miss it though since the yuzu chutney was so very good.

Dessert was the best I’ve ever had at Deluxe, a rustic Fuji apple tart with a rich cheddar cheese crust served with vanilla ice cream and honey-saffron cream.  Sweets have historically been a weak point at this restaurant, but this time Keith hit it spot on.  I usually stick with the cheese plate over there, and not just because I’m diet-conscious, but I’d order this one again.


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